Last month through The Daily Meal I had the opportunity to visit Hawks Cay Resort down in the Florida Keys on the largest island in Duck Key. On an early Monday morning I flew down to warm Miami and met with several other press representatives before we all ambled onto a chartered van to take us several hours south along U.S. 1.
I have never really been to Florida before, other than a brief passing through on airlines, but Mr. C lived there for several years before we met and he’s told me many stories about it. Being the food snob (or “enthusiast”- I prefer the term enthusiast) that I am, the thing that stuck most clearly in my mind was the significance of key lime pie from the keys. It was only fitting that after our first meal in Florida (which consisted of amazing fish tacos) during the drive down, I took advantage of being able to order key lime pie.
Practically standard fare in the keys, it set the tone for the delicious culinary adventure I was about to go on. Much more lime and much less sugar than you’ll find anywhere else, complete with a graham cracker crust, this one was topped with -as I later learned- the less traditional whipped cream topping rather than the merengue fluff and it was truly something to savor; it was bright, fresh, creamy and absolutely delicious!
When we arrived at Hawks Cay Resort, we were given time to settle into our rooms after checking in and I was able to recline on the balcony overlooking the pool and slow down. We later had a tour around the resort and were able to see the various lodgings available for guests as well as the pools (both family friendly and adults only) along with the lagoon. I was also quite excited to see that they had water refill stations set up throughout the resort so I could easily refill my reusable bottle!
The first night we ate at Angler & Ale, which has a more casual set-up and we were able to sit outside overlooking the docks. I was excited to see a Whole Roasted Snapper on the menu and so of course I took advantage of the opportunity and boy was it delicious- menacing teeth and all! The fish was lightly fried with crispy skin a sweet chili sauce. Another favorite of mine was their Salt & Vinegar Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes, which, for being a Maryland gal, were really impressively good! Lots of jumbo lump crab and the chips made up the breadcrumb batter, bringing a bright note to the sweetness of the crab.
After desserts (yup, you guessed correctly- I ordered the key lime pie) we waddled our way back to our rooms for an early night, as the next morning we were going out fishing!
One of the things I was most excited about trying out with the “Hook N Cook” experience, which allows residents and guests to bring in their fresh catch to be prepared and cooked by the chef at the various restaurants at the resort. So with this experience in mind, we found ourselves back on the docks bright and early at 7am the next morning. We chowed down on some hearty boxed breakfasts but being early for me, not to mention still being stuffed from the night before I didn’t eat much which turned out to be a good call, as it ended up coming back around to visit far earlier than I had hoped…
I’ve been on boats and ships often enough and have never gotten seasick. I had been advised to take some medication the night before, or at least the morning before heading out and foolishly laughed it off saying, “No no- I don’t get seasick! I’ll be fine, thank you!” Almost immediately after we had stopped at our first fishing location in the middle of the ocean did I truly realize the error in my ways as I slowly began to match the pasty color of the boat. I quickly found myself mustering up the last of my pride as I lurched myself into the clammy, foul-smelling bathroom underneath the deck. Hello there breakfast sandwich! I hadn’t hoped to see you again so soon!
My boat-mates took pity on me, offering various pieces of advice to help with seasickness, to no avail. In the end, the only thing that seemed to help was actively and physically focusing on something else, like fishing, which worked out perfectly as it was the reason we were all there. I was given the opportunity to reel in a particularly large fish, which probably relieved me of seasickness for a good 15 minutes while I wrangled in the 60lb Amberjack. While it was out of season and needed to be tossed back, we eventually ended up with a nice haul of snapper as well as a lovely bonito fish.
Around midday I was grateful to return to land and sip on some cool ginger-ale. Sweet, bubbly soda has never tasted so good!
A few of us headed to Angler & Ale again to enjoy a delicious lunch before reclining beside the pool. In the evening the chef prepared the fish we had caught and we chowed down on stone crab claws, sipped light and refreshing mojitos that transitioned into a lovely bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and I found another excuse to sample some key lime pie.
The next morning we had a later start and I was able to sample their breakfast (and dinner) restaurant, Ocean, where they offer a buffet option or a la carte menu. While the food was delicious, I must admit that I loved the bright light that cascaded into the dining room with its high vaulted ceilings. That day we learned about their educational dolphin program and had an opportunity to go kayaking. As our last evening we went to Alma, their relaxed fine-dining location. By relaxed, I mean that the style is more smart-casual (but you can dress it up as much as you want too!)- it is the keys after all!
The food was delicious, of course, with the menu built around its Latin roots and Caribbean flair. Our dinner was long and full of stories and laughter and continued late until the evening, as all good meals do.
The next morning after breakfast, we all headed back into the van to work our way back to Miami and then home. Of course, I would have loved to stay another day or two but this much needed “break” helped me to reset my frame of mind and also take a physical break from the winter up north. It also reminded me how much I do love visiting tropical spots- especially during the winter!
Disclaimer: I was sent to Hawks Cay Resort as a representative of The Daily Meal for the purpose of writing a piece. The trip and expenses were complementary and no other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.